What Will The Dream Do WIthout McCoughtry?
By Cristhian Plasencia
After losing their starting small forward Angel McCoughtry, the Atlanta Dream shifted their starting lineup.
McCoughtry tore her ligaments in her left knee in last week’s game against the Las Vegas Aces.
As a result of losing their lone All-Star, Atlanta injected Brittney Sykes into the starting five at small forward. She started at the third spot during the first two games and teamed up with Renee Montgomery at shooting guard against the New York Liberty on Sunday.
Sykes had two starts this season before McCoughtry went down. She has started the last three games. Last time out against Liberty, she scored 17 points.
The former seventh overall pick averages 9.7 points, shooting 41.1 percent from the field. At 5-foot, 9-inches, Sykes naturally plays the guard position, although she’s versatile in playing bigger with a smaller frame, in combination with her athleticism.
She’s not the type of wing that can just give you solid double-digit points, rather Sykes brings value to the Dream from both ends of the court.
The former Syracuse standout doesn’t appear as much on highlight reels, although she ignites energy to her team, especially when she came off the bench.
Tiffany Hayes leads the Dream in scoring, averaging 17.3 points. She’s the main offensive catalyst for Atlanta. However, McCoughtry contributed 16.5 points and her absence will need someone to pick up her slack.
A scoring point guard trends in modern basketball – that’s what the Dream will need to compete deep in the playoffs. Montgomery averages 10.2 points compounded with 3.6 assists.
Now without their second-leading scorer in McCoughtry, Atlanta will rely more on Montgomery. She has not disappointed. On Sunday against Liberty, she scored 30 points, averaging 21 points the past three games.
Shooting beyond the arc doesn’t suit the Dream’s identity, as they make 5.7 threes per game, fourth worst in the league. With that said, Montgomery lit up the scoreboard in her 30-point game, knocking down eight triples.
Montgomery has shown her aggressive defense as of late. She totaled six steals during last week’s stretch of games. The Dream’s defensive demeanor tends to be the reflection of their head coach.
Nicki Collen’s upbeat tempo transition offense begins with intense pressing and structured defense, which turns into offense, rather than having a lethargic build up from an offensive set.
Previewing the 2018 WNBA season, Collen said she wants her team to prioritize defense first and wants her team to be the best in the league at bringing the ball down the court.
The Dream’s rotation of center Imani McGee Stafford, mixing it up with forward Monique Billings gives them an advantage on the defensive block.
Jessica Breland, a true stretch power forward, doesn’t catch attention in terms of her stats, though her stouthearted defensive work can’t be estimated. She averages 8.1 rebounds, fifth in the league, and is third in blocks at 1.9 per game.
Atlanta ranks first in holding opponents to 42.1 percent shooting and they are third allowing only 78.8 points per game.
The Dream may be without their five-time All-Star, but their identity doesn’t revolve around one scorer. The Dream’s success is predicated on their defensive framework.